A trip to Dubrovnik is like a step back in time. As soon as you enter the city gates, you’ll be transported to a world filled with lively squares, awe-inspiring fortresses, and ornate palaces. But what’s even more breathtaking is that the city is perched directly on the shimmery blue waters of the Adriatic Sea.
One of the best ways to explore Dubrovnik is by getting lost amongst the labyrinth of cobbled streets and hidden alleys, soaking in the old-world atmosphere that predates modern life by almost 1,500 years. Along the way, stop to visit these historic sites and see why Dubrovnik has earned its rightful title as the “Pearl of the Adriatic.”
With Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architectural elements, Rector’s Palace is one of the most stunning buildings in all of Dubrovnik. However, this architectural masterpiece has gone through its fair share of turmoil since it was constructed in the 14th-century.
Over the course of 200 years, the building was burned to the ground, destroyed in a gunpowder explosion, and damaged by two separate earthquakes. As a result, multiple architects contributed to its reconstruction over the years, giving Rector’s Palace a unique style that incorporates centuries of architectural design.
The inside of Rector’s Palace is equally as noteworthy as it’s now home to the Cultural History Museum of Dubrovnik.
Nestled on the upper east side of the city walls is the Dominican Monastery. At first glance, it looks like many other buildings in the old city with its terra cotta-colored roof and fortress-like stone façade. However, its signature feature is the imposing bell tower which overlooks the port of Dubrovnik.
Inside the monastery, you’ll find one of the most impressive collections of art, from iconic painters including Lovro Dobričević, Nikola Božidarević, and even Titan. But the art pales in comparison to the monastery’s Gothic-Renaissance cloister, which was constructed by Florentine sculpter Maso di Bartolomeo.
Bustling at all hours of the day, Luža Square is the beating heart of Dubrovnik’s local life. Not only is it bordered by some of the city’s most notable buildings, including the Church of St. Blaise, Sponza Palace, and the iconic Dubrovnik clocktower. At its center stands Orlando’s Column, a monument depicting a medieval knight with a sword and shield.
The best time to visit is in the early morning or late afternoon when you can grab a table at one of the neighboring cafes and watch locals going about their day.
Unlike other buildings in Dubrovnik, the stately Sponza Palace is one of the only structures to survive the devastating earthquake in 1667. You can’t miss it – the arched Renaissance portico and sculptured Gothic windows make it an eye-catching sight as it looms over Luža Square.
Sponza Palace has had multiple functions over the past few centuries. It was a customs office, armory, treasury, bank, and mint manufacture, although it’s currently home to the city archives.
St. John’s Fortress
A testament to Dubrovnik’s medieval defense system, the monumental St. John’s Fortress stands a military watchman guarding the old harbor. During times of invasion, the fortress could close up the port with heavy chains at first sight of encroaching pirates or enemy ships.
It’s built into part of the old city walls, so you’ll be able to visit the upper terrace and century-old canons as you make your way around the perimeter. However, it’s also worth stepping foot inside the fortress, which is now an aquarium and maritime museum.
Old City Walls
For one of the best views in Dubrovnik, take an exhilarating walk along the ancient city walls. Built in the 9th-century, these fortified walls once protected the heart of the city against invaders. While the walls are an impressive feat on their own (they’re 20-feet thick and 80-feet high in some places), it’s the breathtaking birds-eye-view over the red-roofed city and sparkling Adriatic that makes them worth climbing.
The panoramic path encircles the entire city clocks in at 1.2 miles, so it’s a relatively long walk to see all the sites. In addition to the spectacular water views, you’ll also pass by watchtowers, drawbridges, and fortresses.
Dissecting through the old town from east to west is the limestone-paved walkway referred to as Stradun. For nearly 700 years, Stradun has been the main thoroughfare of Dubrovnik. Not much has changed since it was constructed after the 1667 earthquake, so you’ll be able to experience life like an authentic Dubrovnik local.
Start at Pile Gate and meander towards Orlando Column at the other end, admiring the Baroque houses, charming cafes, and local storefronts flanked on either side of the street. As one of Croatia’s most fascinating cities, Dubrovnik is a must-see for history lovers and culture buffs. Whether you’re exploring the fortresses, admiring the exquisite architecture, or simply soaking in the fresh sea breeze from atop the ancient walls, there’s plenty to see in this magnificent city. Visit Dubrovnik on several different tours to Croatia with Gate 1 Travel.